Countless problems plague small-medium businesses, but few are more potentially damaging to businesses' cash flow and survival than late payments.
As the market leader in cloud credit control (accounts receivable) with over 7 years of experience helping SMBS tackle collections and late payments, the Chaser team found that 80% of invoices can be successfully collected on time through email chasing alone. However, this still leaves 20% that need a further push, which is when company owners may need to organise a collection call to ask customers for payment over the phone.
After all, if your work goes unpaid 20% of the time, this could impact your credit rating, cash flow, or financial stability. With that in mind, here are 6 effective debt collection call scripts used when calling customers.
Looking to improve your client email chasing too? Download our popular guide on the 8 most effective templates for getting paid on time.
When does an unpaid invoice need to be chased via phone call?
Whether you've received a partial payment or no money at all, it's crucial that you aren't afraid to chase up clients. After all, this can negatively affect your business.
Three situations warrant a collection call using one of the debt collection scripts below.
- No favourable response after 3 email chasers. You've been asking for an expected payment date or for a reason why an overdue bill remains unpaid for 3 emails in a row now. If you haven't had a satisfactory answer, it's time to follow up with a phone call.
- No response at all after 3 email chasers. Much like the above situation, but worse. If you're sending email chasers at a reasonable pace and have been entirely ignored for 3 in a row, it's time to pick up the telephone and collect your payment!
- To impose a sense of realism, e.g. if threatening legal action or working with a debt collection agency. If you have a particularly difficult customer that won't pay for your services and it's come to take severe action, a phone call will help them see the reality of the situation. (Of course, this call should not replace delivering them the same info in writing - it enhances that message).
Before you use a script to improve your collection rates, there are a few preparatory steps to undertake. This helps ensure that your first call is also your last, as they will listen carefully and pay once the call has ended.
Firstly, prepare yourself mentally. Being asked for money, especially when it's rightfully owed, puts your customer in an awkward position - they may find themselves struggling to justify the unjustifiable. As long as you maintain a sense of polite professionalism and deal only with facts, the conversation cannot spiral. For example, start the conversation by wishing the other party a good morning or good afternoon.
Next, have all the necessary information in front of you. This includes:
- Invoice number
- Goods/services the invoice is for
- Invoice due date
- Number of days overdue (if applicable)
- Notes of communication had so far
- Who to talk to (or if you don't know, ask for Accounts Payable)
Finally, keep the objective in mind. The phone call isn't just to make customers feel bad because they haven't paid. In most cases, you want to achieve one of three things:
- Resolve any disputes
- Establish an expected payment date
- Remove any hurdles to payment
Want to put an end to poor payment behaviour from customers?
Collections can be awkward and time-consuming. But they don't have to be. See how you could let Chaser do the heavy work with polite, proactive, automated invoice chasing that gets you paid faster. Save your space on a 20-minute webinar to join thousands of businesses putting an end to late payments and boosting cash flow with Chaser.
6 Scripts for chasing payments
When you get on the phone with the customer, you will run into excuses. If everything were fine, they would've paid by now. Below are the 6 most common excuses you'll hear and how to best handle them to achieve a favourable outcome.
During these calls, remember to understand, empathise, and negotiate. You're dealing with a human being, and that requires tact, even if they aren't being a good customer. If you are demanding, interrogating, or dominating, you'll put them on the defensive, making it more difficult to collect payment and possibly losing them as a customer in future.
Excuse 1: They forgot to pay
Customer: My apologies. I got busy and forgot to pay.
You: Thank you, I understand that can happen. Now that I have you on the phone, are you able to make a payment?
Customer: I'm a little tied up right now; I'll do it today or tomorrow at the latest.
You: Not a problem; I've made a note in my system of the invoice number, and our conversation reflects the promised payment, and we'll look forward to receiving it. I hope you have a great day.
Excuse 2: The invoice is incorrect
Customer: I've not yet paid as the invoice is incorrect.
You: I'm very sorry to hear that, could you please explain the problem?
Customer: (Explains issue)
---- If the customer is correct ----
You: Apologies, and thanks for explaining. I'll have that looked into right away. I'll issue an updated invoice with the correct outstanding balance as soon as this has been resolved. I'll be back in touch shortly.
---- If the customer has misunderstood ----
You: Thank you for explaining. However, there seems to have been a misunderstanding. (Explain the misunderstanding). We'll endeavour to make this more clear in future; however, for now, this invoice remains due. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help facilitate payment.
Excuse 3: They didn't receive your invoice
Customer: This is the first time I've received this invoice.
You: Apologies if that is the case. Could you please confirm that your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and that you have access to this account?
Customer: Yes, that is correct.
You: Great, thanks for clarifying. We have sent emails regarding the payment of this invoice to that address, and they are all sent with an invoice copy attached. So please do check your spam in case they've gone in there by mistake. With regards to this invoice, can you settle it now over the phone?
Customer: No, sorry, I don't have access to my card. I'll put it on this Friday's run by BACS.
You: Brilliant. I'll make a note in our system to expect payment by Tuesday when the BACS payment clears. Thanks.
Excuse 4: The invoice hasn't been approved
Customer: Unfortunately, my director has not yet approved the invoice.
You: Sorry to hear that. I know these things are sometimes out of your control. Has there been a query with the invoice?
Customer: Not to my knowledge, no.
You: In that case, is it possible to request that this is approved today? If your director has any queries at all, feel free to contact me by phone or email.
Customer: She's not in the office right now, but I'll do my best to reach her.
You: I appreciate that. I'll check in with you soon. All the best.
Excuse 5: They're out of the office
Customer: I'm not in the office right now, so I can't make payment.
You: Not a problem, I understand you must be busy, and apologise for calling at an inconvenient time. We can accept card payments over the phone if that would make things easier?
Customer: No, sorry, I'm driving. I should be in tomorrow. I'll pay it then.
You: Thanks for that, we really appreciate it. I'll make a note to expect payment for the outstanding balance then. I hope you have a nice day.
Excuse 6: They already paid the invoice
Customer: Why are you calling me? I already paid this invoice!
You: My apologies, I'll check our system and see why this wasn't marked as paid and make sure it doesn't happen in future. Can you confirm the date when this was paid?
Customer: Sometime last week, I believe.
You: Thank you, I'll look into our accounts right away for you. I'm sorry to disturb you. Have a good morning/good afternoon.
When using a call script for past-due invoices, it's equally important that you do not sound as though you are reading information directly from a script. Thankfully, this can easily be remedied by speaking in a friendly, personable tone and listening carefully to what the client is saying. This way, you can respond to any questions they have quickly and efficiently, making for a much more successful collection call.
After the call
After using one of the above debt collection call scripts, be sure to make note of the date, time, who you spoke with, and what was said or agreed. This way, you've noted all of the necessary information if you need to set up a payment plan or contact a debt collection agency to collect your outstanding debt.
Unfortunately, in some cases, further email chasing or phone calls may be necessary, and being able to refer back to what was previously agreed and when, can be key in keeping the customer on track to pay. Both now and in future. This is because it holds them more accountable and ensures they pay invoices promptly. You must send them a final demand if they still do not pay.
Once the customer pays, don't forget to thank them for paying. And if they're starting to develop a trend as a late payer, try adjusting your email chasers going forward to better your chances of being paid on time in future.
While collection calls can seem daunting, they are one of the easiest ways to improve cash flow within your company and protect your bank account.